As a young boy, I was taught the principles of Catholicism primarily through my mother’s grand-parents — Portuguese emigres with a lot of respect for family values and good old fashioned faith. With my parents hard at work practically every day, my early years as a toddler were mostly comprised of a few hours in my parents’ city apartment and a day, or perhaps even a day and half, at my grand-parents home in the suburbs. Because of these early travels, I began to quickly grow close to both my loving, food-prodding grand-parents and a little known religion called Christianity.
I distinctly remember at the age of seven being able to recite the prayers that my grand-mother had taught me, in Portuguese, word for word. Every day she’d ask me, almost suspiciously, if I had forgotten how to rezar (pray) and I’d just carefully reach back into my memory, sound out the syllables I could and proceed with what seemingly became a daily ritual. Looking back on it all now, I admit that I did, at times, only comply out of fear of perhaps producing disappointment, or worse, some form of compassionate resentment. (My grand-parents are capricious, to say the least). With all that said, many of these memories echo somewhat faintly today, considering that almost a decade stands between them and the person I am now.
You may have read this in my second post, but if not I’ll just spill the beans here: I’m not a particularly religious person. Not anymore, anyways. Now, it’s not that I have any problem with faith in general, it’s just that I sometimes find it hard to prescribe to the dated and somewhat chauvinist writings of religious scripture. Of course, I bear no ill will, of any degree, towards people who carry and practice a faith, as I truly understand the necessity to have something that important and transcendental to hold on to. Honestly, I have no problem with the fact that faith can actually bring out good in people; I just don’t feel particularly drawn to religion anymore because I feel I cannot delude my own self from hypocrisy as easily as so-called “devoters” can. If I commit myself to something, it’s not going to be by lip-service.
With that said, I do, quite honestly, fear calling myself an atheist because of the simple fact that, like the majority of people, I do somewhat fear the unknown. Of course, I acknowledge that having a secular understanding of the world is perhaps the greatest way of providing answers about what we don’t know, considering that this can lead way to objectivism and useful templates such as the scientific method. However, I’d be an outright liar if I told you that I haven’t rolled awake at night thinking about whether there really is a heaven or a hell. Seriously. I mean, sure I don’t contemplate whether or not I’ll be meeting the Devil or God, I just truly fear the possibility that our time on Earth is all we have and that the sweet hereafter is really just maggots eating away at our decomposing flesh. I know that I’m going all over the place here, but it truly is horrible to just imagine that one day we may just disappear as quickly as a lighted candle caught in the wind. That our consciousness will one day simply enter the realm of non-existence.
I suppose that my concerns about the after-life have drawn me towards employing the word “agnostic” more often than “atheist,” whenever I describe myself to other people. I mean, there are great number of things that we just don’t know about and because of that, answers are always welcome — even if some may just be wrong. Besides, I’ll even admit that it is more comforting to know what will happen to you after you’ve passed away, than not knowing at all.
Or, maybe it isn’t. Maybe, my obsession with what will happen to me after I die is only anchored by the fact that I’m not enjoying life enough to deem such thoughts as pointless. I’m in the prime of my life. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about it too much.
Maybe I’ll update you guys once I hit 50.
The Cynical Scribe